Opening the Book
The introduction elaborates the expanded mode of readerly awareness that the novels of Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf cultivate by drawing the reader’s attention to the object of the book that transmits their texts. Situating the argument within the changes brought about by both the rise of new media forms like film and phonographic recording and the explosion in printed materials, it suggests that these novels’ sensitivity to their mundane material format opens up an approach to close reading that develops within—even as it moves beyond—the current contextualist discussions of modernism. As the novels repeatedly stage their own physical materiality as an embodiment of an impersonal ephemerality that envelops both readerly subject and bookish object, they pursue a deep meditation on the temporality of book-reading itself. In doing so, they offer resources for elaborating the dynamism of the book that opens a conversation with textual formats like the “little magazine” or even the multifarious varieties of computer-based new media against which it is usually pitted.
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